January 23, 2007

What's in a name?

So, I just came across a post on Mamapop about celebrity adoptions where the conversation turned to celebrity baby names and a commenter said "I’ve seen some crazy kids names: “Arun,” “Gennyphyr,” etc."

Part of me was irritated, part of me got a chuckle. I wonder if the confusion didn't arise from the fact that the commenter obviously didn't know how to pronounce "Arun" and clearly doesn't have much experience with India or Indians (despite living in Chicago, oddly enough). "Arun" is a pretty common Indian name and is nothing spectacular, but we liked it. It means "the sun" and I also liked the simplicity of that - I didn't want to saddle my son with something grand like "Will conquer the world". Too much pressure. (Bonus Factoid: In Thai, it is a name for both boys AND girls . The owner of the Thai Place, a popular restaurant here, is also named Arun and she gets a special kick out of OUR Arun when we bring him in.)

However, it kills me when people act as if we got a wild hair up our asses and gave our son this huge albatross of a name. It kills me when someone squints their eyes at Arun's name after having just told me her daughter's name is "Tealey" as if that was a perfectly normal name - when in reality, it took me awhile to figure out her daughter's name was NOT "tealeaf". It kills me when people act confused over a TWO syllable name.

Anyway, when we gave our kid an Indian moniker it was for a simple reason - we liked the name. Besides, the kid will be raised Suburban White with a smoky hint of Ethnic Brown. By giving him a Desi First Name coupled with a bland, middle-class White Bread Middle Name, and then finished with a Curiously Christian Last Name, it's a sweet little reminder of where he comes from. He's a mutt, like the rest of us.


Lainey-Paney said...

Names are such tricky issues.

I actually heard my son's name first in the movie, Pet Semetery (isn't the title intentionally misspelled? If not, then I apologize...either way here--I'm an idiot...whatever.)
Anyway...his name is Gage. I loved the name.
Granted, the kid in the movie was creepy as hell!
Then, my husband's mother's maiden name is Gage, and of course...I was like, "It's a sign! I'm supposed to marry this man & populate the planet!"
So, we got started.

Some people have asked me, "Isn't that a LAST name?"
I respond, "for some people. but for my son, it's a FIRST name."

Anyway... I love his name. And now, I'm hearing it more & more...and it's pissing me off.
I liked the fact that my son's name wasn't PAINFULLY common like all the little EMMAs will be when they grow up. (Damn Ross & Rachel for ruining a perfectly good name by making it nauseatingly common!)

Okay...that's my $0.02.

Lainey-Paney said...

Additional random note:
our children are just few weeks apart in age.


Leah said...

There is a big difference between a name that is not well-known, but there is an interesting reason for it, and a name that the mom wants to pretend is unique, but really just added extra Ys. (Like Mykynzy) Sorry that sentence is so awkward. I am tired.

Modern Day Hermit said...

I could go on and on about such topics. I grew up as Jennifer Bailey, a simple search in Google will verify how common this name is.

My son's middle name is Narayan and people think I made it up, like it's some varient of Ryan. Then they comment I spelled it wrong.

Or the comments of why I named my whitey sone (my words) an Indian name, from Americans and Indians alike. Hell, why not?!?! I love it, it's a nice name.

While Alexander Naryan is a very strong name and could be loaded with expectations {chuckle} it isn't.

I adore the name Arun. I love a lot of Indian/Hindu/Muslim names, really. Just because I'm no longer married to an Indian it doesn't mean I can't use the names I discovered and love.

honeybecke said...

Cagey, how do you pronounce Arun's name? I guess I always say "Aaron" in my head when I read his name.

is it like aw-run?

I've always liked his name, no matter how it's pronounced!

md. macaca said...

Lol, I read that mama pop whatever and although you took it correctly (as in not getting pissed off), I am pissed off. It's amazing how ignorant and flippant people can be. Grrr...

DeAnn said...

I think chuckling is the right attitude. We all bring our preconceptions, and you just have to hope people will listen when you explain it like you're doing here. I'd never heard it before and didn't know the roots, but now I'm informed and will stick up for all Arun-naming parents from here on out.

But I can't forgive Apple. Or Cal-El.

Anonymous said...

That's too funny! Yes, Arun is hopelessly exotic, what were you thinking? We get the same feedback on our daughter's name, Shoma, and people ask how to spell it. I really want to say "with a Q, but it's silent", but since it's a Bengali name it's phonetic, so really pretty easy.


Stacey said...

I love names. They're a hobby for me, weird as that is.

I look at my college's alumni magazine with eagerness, but not because I necessarily know anybody in it; I just look for and howl over the hideous names people are giving their children. I admit that I can't abide misspellings in order to make a child "unique". First, can't you encourage your child to be different, follow his/her own drum, etc. without screwing with the spelling? Second, if you want your kid to be unique, why not go for a truly unique name? I'm pretty sure there aren't any Television Smiths or DC747 Joneses.

Okay, that was mean and pokey, but I wish people would think about these things before forming a kid's identity with them.

Kelli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cagey said...

Previous comment deleted because for whatever reason, Blogger was displaying my real name. Ironically. While my real name isn't necessarily hidden, I didn't want it to be confusing since I normally reply under Cagey.

Kelli IRL ;-)

Cagey said...

Let's try this AGAIN....

See, Gage IS a name to me, it's that character from the 70s show, Emergency. Although, come to think of it, I think Gage was his last name. Whatever, that guy was hot. One of my very first celebrity crushes.

I knew what you meant and I think the commenter meant that as well, thinking that Arun was pronounced like Aaron. Coincidentally, MY name is spelled differently from the more common way, but my parents weren't trying to start a trend.

Modern Day Hermit,
I love that people "correct" you on the spelling!

Arun's name is pronounced "ah-roon". Which makes it great fun to rhyme things with.

Md. Macaca,
I was a little more pissed off than I let on. After all, the commenter said that "Coco" was a tame name and that "Arun" was a crazy name. Grrr.

Yeah, I draw the line at naming my kids after fruits and superheroes.

I'm totally stealing your line "with a Q, but it's silent". Awesome!

Yes, I can honestly say we weren't trying to make a statement with out kid's name or trying to make him unique. The poor kid has geeky, odd parents as it is, so he is already starting behind. Really, I have always liked the name Arun (my college roommate's brother n' law had that name. Did care for the guy, actually, but always had liked his name). I picked it and X went along with it.

metalia said...

Oh lord, I can relate. I am often told that I am either spelling/pronouncing MY OWN NAME incorrectly.

(And I happen to think the name Arun is adorable.:))

dorothy said...

Seriously? I remember Mrs. Kennedy saying something about the pharmacist making fun of her first name and thinking, what won't people say?

I love Arun's name.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know it meant the sun. That's lovely.

And as far as your previous post, what kind of handbag are you getting? I am looking for a Coach with a long strap and a large bag. I haven't been successful.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

You were pretty nice in your response. I would have been a lot meaner...but what do I know? I'm an evil harpy whose soul is as barren as her snatch.

Think of it this way, though. If you had named him "Rohan" you would have been accused of LOTR fangirliness by those not in the know.

I already wrote to you about this but just WAIT till he grows up and tells you people think he's not "really Indian" because of being Christian. My lawschool buddies always really enjoyed that...

Shalini said...

Oh, the name game. We tried so hard to find an Indian name that wouldn't get butchered, but 'tis impossible. Ashok will probably spend his life teaching people how to pronounce his name, but that's OK. We like it.

And Monkey, my sister is thinking of naming her son Rohan so we have been wondering how much LOTR impact there will be!

Shalini said...

Oh! And you have to check out this book:


It's all about an Indian boy who learns to be proud of his unique name! Very cute.

Anonymous said...

My husband is Nigerian, and while the names we have chosen for our future kids are white/christian names, the last name is what will stand out. It's Enabulele pronounced, en-ah-boo-lay-lay. We've been married less than two years and while I knew people would have trouble with the pronuncation, I still get irritated when I say it slowly two or three times and the other person still can't get it right. I want to shake them and say, "Pay attention! It's not that hard."

Anonymous said...

Also, I'd like to add that Enabulele means "unity is strength". I used to think I would keep my name, but the melodic sound and meaning of the name changed my mind quick.

Erin said...

Cagey, I used to work with an Arun who called himself Aaron just to avoid the whole "how do you pronounce it" issue.

Naming a kid can be such a challenge. My last name is hard to pronounce and people are forever butchering it (though it is handy when telemarketers call, I know it right off) so I went for a simple first name for my daughter, Emily. Yeah, THE most popular girls name right now. She's going to be one of 85 Emily's in her class, but I didn't care I just loved the name. And then I added insult to injury and gave her the middle name of Elizabeth (which is a family name) without realizing that I was naming her after a popular children's book character (Clifford The Big Red Dog's little girl is Emily Elizabeth).

My husband and I are totally struggling with what to name baby #2.

What is Arun's middle name, if you don't mind me asking? :)

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

shalini, I've seen/read enough people say it and I always correct them and tell them "No, it's a proper Indian name." There's always "Rohit", if she's worried :).

Rohan seems to be v. popular as a desi boy name right now (for good reason, it's easy to say!) and I suspect that as it becomes more and more obvious that the kindergarten Rohans all seem to be of desi or demi-desi parentage, that people will get the point and realise it's a name, not LOTR geekiness. Not that there's anything wrong with LOTR geekiness but generally when I've heard people say it about the name "Rohan" their voices were dripping with condescension.

I dying to name a baby "Anikhet" because it's one of my favourite desi boy names but I know know KNOW people are going to assume it's some Revenge of the Sith knockoff name.

Kerry said...

I have to admit, I first came to this site because Arun's picture was on Amalah's site and I wanted to know....what's with the weird spelling of Aaron? (and also because the picture of him was incredibly cute)Then I read, and found out, and kept reading because it was interesting.

But, out in the real world where names are actually said out loud, and not just spelled, I'd imagine a lot fewer people will think it's "supposed to be" Aaron.

scribbit said...

My brother (blond and white) just named his daughter Xienli because he loves all things Chinese and speaks Mandarin fluently. It took my parents quite a while to get used to it. They still haven't.

It kind of sounds like Shenley, and when you hear it that's how you think it's spelled, and my Dad called her Shenley at the Christmas party. When Dan corrected him and said it was pronounced "Shee-en-lee" (a very slight difference) Dad's response was "Dan, I'm doing the best I can with it."

Cracked me up.

EEK! said...

I swear to Jeebus, MamaPop is the dumbest site. Faux edgy, not funny. They can call it "snarky" but on the occasions that I am compelled to read (because of links like this) mostly I just think "bitchy."

Md. Macaca said...

Eek, I'm totally with you on the Mamapop hate. It's vapid beyond belief.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Aside from snotting on furriner names, that was a pretty fucking mean ENTRY to begin with.

Stephanie said...

I'll admit it. Until this post, I assumed that Arun was pronounced "Aaron," but I didn't really think anything of it as a variation on the spelling because people get way more... uh... creative with spellings than that. But if I were to hear it rather than read it first, it certainly doesn't seem like some complicated name to me!

(And eeeks! You have a real name now! That always throws me when people with Internet nicknames reveal their actual names.)

Heza Hekele said...

I always assumed that Arun was another spelling of Aaron. My middle name is the female, same sounding name, Erin. But I did wonder if Arun had a different pronunciation. Nice to know.

I chose a last name for my son's first name. Bennett. I just liked it. He's nearly five and I have yet to actually meet another human being with the same first name (but have heard of a couple...) However, it still surprises me when people misspell it...too many people assume that I would have twisted the spelling; seems to be the norm nowadays.